The way I see it, happiness tends to be circumstantial—we rely on outcomes and sets of circumstances to give us those fuzzy feelings and smiles, but contentment and joy are deeper-rooted feelings that are cultivated within and are more pervasive in the way we live. When we’re so insistent upon heralding happiness as the only thing to pursue, we set ourselves up for intolerance to sadness, fear, and those feelings that are even more painful. Our society has become so fixated on gaining and retaining happiness rather than chasing wholeness. It leaves us vulnerable to when those inevitable feelings of pain occur because we’re so avoidant of them and don’t develop the tools for how to use them the same way we do with happiness.
Throughout some of the bigger challenges in my life with my athletic career and disordered eating, my autoimmune disease, and losing my dad, I’ve learned that I am able to experience so much more joy and contentment when striving for the wholeness of life over striving solely for happiness. I’ve discovered that however deep I allow those painful feelings to get, the fuller the capacity I create for feeling joy and satisfaction. It’s especially important now for me with the volatile ups and downs that come with being a startup founder because I’m able to gain contentment from embracing both the ups and the downs since I no longer place value only on happiness or a successful outcome. The spectrum of emotions is what it means to be human. By trying to repress or turn off our negative feelings, we turn off our ability to experience positive ones as well—we cannot selectively shut off feelings we don’t enjoy.
I only began to understand the things that truly fulfilled me once I let go of the relentless chase for this socially created structure of "happiness." Learning how to live wholeheartedly is what allowed me to be the type of person that truly appreciates those fleeting moments of happiness as well as the ability to cultivate a deeper sense of joy, optimism, and contentment regardless of the ups and downs of life.
It’s a practice in perspective, so I want to share the four things that have helped me shift my outlook on life and be more fulfilled than ever before: